Australian Venue Co focused on regional expansion

18 March, 2021 by Vanessa Cavasinni

Earlier this year, AVC CEO Paul Waterson outlined to Australian Hotelier the company’s regional focus for 2021. The execution of the strategy has already begun, with the acquisition and openings of pubs in some of the country’s regional hotspots.

This week, AVC announced the acquisition of two pubs to be added to its portfolio: the Jubilee Tavern in Airlie Beach, Queensland; and the Albion Hotel in Albury, New South Wales.

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“Both of these pubs are an important part of their local communities, and we want to keep it that way. We’re excited to welcome the teams at both to the AVC family,” stated Waterson.

Jubilee Tavern includes a bar and bistro, outdoor dining area, kids’ playground, sports bar, TAB facilities and gaming room. It’s best known for its outdoor dining area and is popular with families in the area and guests at Island Gateway Holiday Park.

Albury’s Albion Hotel includes a bistro, bar and rooftop bar which are available exclusively for private events.

In Victoria, AVC is set to reopen the Criterion Hotel in Yarrawonga, situated on the south bank of Lake Mulwala, on the Victoria-New South Wales border. The pub has been closed since early 2020, but AVC acquired the leasehold earlier this year. The pub will reopen this Friday 19 March.

Why go regional?

Waterson outlined the reasons for this focus on expanding the group’s regional presence in Australian Hotelier’s Annual Industry Leaders Forum issue in February, and reprinted below.

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Australian Venue Co. (AVC) has set its sights on regional property investment as one of its key focuses for 2021.

With a cloud of the unknown surrounding future international travel, CEO Paul Waterson believes domestic travel will continue to rise, and with it, visitation to some of Australia’s most beautiful remote locations.

“People aren’t going to be able to travel overseas, hence why we’ve developed staycations and experiences to the best of our ability to try and replicate what the travel experience would be. I think you’re going to see more domestic travel for quite a while to come, which is why we really like the potential to buy more assets in coastal, regional and tourist areas where we think there’s just going to be a long-term benefit of Australians travelling domestically.

“We’re looking for unloved, older beautiful pubs in great geographical areas that we can take and do quite substantial major renovations on and just bring some of these great pubs back to life.”

In addition to its intention of expanding its portfolio, AVC is also hoping to invest about $10-15 million worth of capital into renovating venues across Australia.

Acknowledging Australians’ love for outdoor spaces and rooftop bars, Waterson says it’s the perfect time to reinvigorate many of its venues.

“We want to invest in outdoor spaces, beer gardens and rooftops, because once again we think there’s going to be a long-term shift to outdoor dining and we’ve really found a way to activate those outdoor spaces over all seasons.

“The bulk of the renovations we’re doing is in the Coles portfolio [in Queensland] that we purchased in 2019, and we can see a huge opportunity in that portfolio because these are much loved pubs in great geographical areas but they’re quite rundown. We want to reposition those pubs to become more family-centric and more representative of what the local community is.”

Waterson added: “We’ll continue to invest in that driving experience and hope that continues our organic revenue growth as well. Our renovations are done on a pub-by-pub basis to see where there is the potential to improve the performance of the pub.”

You can read more from esteemed operators in the Annual Industry Leaders Forum below.